the npl

Weekly News | 30.8.23

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Weekly News | 30.8.23

Martin Carruthers says he would have settled for the start his Gladiators side have made after the opening month of the season which brought two wins, two draws and two defeats.

His opinion is based largely on what became an horrendous injury list over the Bank Holiday weekend with the Gladiators struggling to get a side together for Monday’s trip to Stafford Rangers. Few would have forecast the outcome, a 4-2 Matlock win, particularly on the back of a flat performance in a deserved 2-0 defeat at Marine just forty eight hours earlier.

“We knew we faced a really tough start, particularly with four of the first six games away from home so I’d have taken a tally of eight points. Yes ideally we’d have liked a couple more to be on ten and near to the play-offs but with all of the injuries plus two red cards sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit grateful for what you’ve got” said Carruthers.

The injuries have been the main talking point of the last week. At Marine Matlock had to do without John Johnston who failed a fitness check on a calf injury and during the warm up Sam Hooper broke down and looks like being out for possibly another fortnight at least. Then near half time there was a scary moment for everyone when Robbie McNicholas was knocked cold when the ball was smashed into his face from point blank range. Fears that he had swallowed his tongue were unfounded but there was relief when the full back eventually moved and he was led off to huge applause. McNicholas will be out possibly for another two weeks due to protocol . Nat Crofts also went off in the second half and missed the Stafford game.

Johnston and Harry Wakefield both started the Stafford clash despite not being fully fit. At least Matlock had the boost of Jamie Sharman back after suspension but this was countered by striker Reece Styche being out until the home game with Marske United on September 9 due to an international call up from Gibraltar. Olly Clark was named as a substitute and was forced on in the second half to replace Kemy Agustien, youngster Mason Bridden played the last six minutes, Matlock only being able to name four substitutes including goalkeeper Myles Wright.

“It was really worrying when Robbie went down, he could easily have broken his nose and jaw and suffered something worse so the positive is that he’s fit and well. Player welfare must come first. He was at the game on Monday and gutted not to be involved, he’s a key player for us and we’ll miss him. Harry and JJ (Johnston) played through the pain barrier and were fantastic, Olly Clark went on at half time when not really fit. The Reece Styche situation can’t be helped, we knew about this when he signed. It’s great for him and the club to have a player in international football, unfortunately it does leave us short at a crucial time.”

With Alex Duhameau and Archie White expected to be out for possibly another month, it is definitely an injury list of crisis proportions for Carruthers who is likely to add to his squad before Saturday’s FA Cup First Qualifying Round clash at Gainsborough Trinity.

Even with the injury woes, Carruthers was unhappy with the performance at Marine but dejection turned to delight when he assessed the Stafford victory.

“We were poor at Marine. After the Atherton performance we wanted to gain some momentum but we weren’t at the races in the first half. It felt like our mentality wasn’t right, It was a better second half from us, we created some chances towards the end but we got what we deserved over the ninety minutes . But boy, what a response at Stafford . It was a big ask and to be honest I’d have taken a point on the way over there but three points, four goals, Jonny Margetts’ hat-trick and a goal from Harry Wakefield who also did brilliantly for the penalty and worked his socks off made it a great afternoon. Jonny was clinical, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have your goalscorer take chances at key moments and Jonny did just that. Hopefully he can now go on a scoring run. The thing that pleased me most though was our start and the mentality we showed. We scored early at Stafford last season, we got two in fact, and we scored early this time. It’s a pity we gave away the penalty but we got a penalty of our own and with the sending off of the Stafford goalkeeper, it gave us the impetus to go on and win the game.”

Carruthers will be hoping some of the walking wounded are back for Gainsborough as Matlock look to get past the first stage for the first time in three seasons. Two years ago Belper beat them 3-0 at the Proctor Cars Stadium while last season Ilkeston Town were 2-0 winners at Matlock in what was Carruthers; final game in charge of the Robins.

“We didn’t want a team from the same league and we’d have loved a home tie but we’ve got to get on with it. I’d love a good FA Cup run but we’ll have to get past Gainsborough first, they’re a good, young footballing side. Then there’s Andrew Wright and Joe West going back to the club they played for last season plus Jonny Margetts was also at Gainsborough previously so we hope he can go back there and score a goal or two. We’re going to go there full of confidence, let’s hope we can break the FA Cup hoodoo.”

If a replay is necessary, it will be at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Tuesday night (7.45pm). The sides were due to meet in the league on Saturday 16 September but as this is the date for the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, this game will be off.

Matlock again look set to be well backed by their travelling fans on Saturday. At both Marine and Stafford they outshouted the home support.

“I’d like to thank everyone who went to Marine and Stafford, our support was magnificent, Even in defeat they were great with us so we were delighted to get the win for them on Monday. They’re our twelfth man and we hope they’ll be there in force again at Gainsborough to cheer us on” said Carruthers.

Ian Richardson